Plans are being drawn up to reduce roadworks and slash the number of potholes. The government wants to charge utility firms for the amount of time they occupy roads. In addition, there are proposals to swap roadworks for pavement works. The idea is to reduce the frequency that roads are dug up and cut potholes.
It is estimated that there are 2.5m road openings per year by gas, water and cable companies. The disruption to drivers by companies digging the road up costs the UK economy £4billion a year. And a new report reveals council roadworks overran by 132,000 days between April and July 2017. Read on to find out how the roadworks dilemma might be solved.
Why will digging up the pavement help?
The belief is that digging up pavements will reduce traffic disruption. It will also cut the number of cars damaged by potholes on roads. And because pavements have much lighter traffic than roads, the number of holes forming is likely to be cut. Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the Times: “You get far fewer holes appearing in intact roads than roads that have been regularly dug up. We are going to create a default that you have to look first at laying the utilities under the pavements rather than under the roads.”
Will it prevent potholes in practice?
Utility firms will be ordered to explore digging up the pavement or verge. If this isn’t viable, only then will they lay their pipes or cables under the road surface.
Won’t this mean potholed pavements?
The fear from campaigners is that this will simply move the problem elsewhere. The Campaign For Better Transport CEO Stephen Joseph said: “You can’t just export the problem from roads to pavements without expecting major consequences. The NHS spends an awful lot of money treating people who’ve had trips, slips and falls on uneven and badly maintained pavements.”
How will lane charging work?
The government has long been discussing charging utility companies for digging up the roads. Under new plans, local authorities will be able to charge anyone wanting to dig up the road by the hour. From 2019, councils could invoice up to £2500 a day.
What will be the benefits?
The volume of traffic in the UK is set to soar 55 per cent by 2040. Therefore the basic aim is to cut congestion. Reducing roadworks, or at least their impact, will help with that. Giving councils the ability to charge varying amounts depending on the time of day and location of the works should have multiple benefits.
Making costs lower at night or over weekends on busy routes will encourage utilities to work when they cause less traffic disruption. It will also give utility companies an incentive to work together. Sharing roadworks will stop the same piece of road being dug up repeatedly. Charging by the hour won’t just inspire utilities to do their work as quickly as possible. It will also mean they would do a better job of reinstating the carriageway once their cable or pipe has been laid as they could be liable for shoddy repairs.
Don’t companies already pay to dig up the roads?
In most of the UK, councils grant a permit to dig up roads for a set amount of time every year. However, since 2014 local authorities in London and Kent have been able to charge for digging up the road. According to the Local Government Association (LGA), disruption from roadworks in those areas has been cut by nearly half.
An LGA spokesman said: “Expanding the lane rental scheme nationwide would incentivise utility companies to do the job right first time around and help get our traffic moving again. With the increasing demand for new and upgraded services and an ageing utility infrastructure there need to be powerful incentives to ensure utility companies carry out necessary work in the most effective way with minimum disruption.”